EXCLUSIVE: Negotiations break through as key Wallabies duo to stay in Australia
In a coup for Australian rugby, Wallabies star Len Ikitau will stay with the Brumbies until the British and Irish Lions until 2025.
The Roar also understand his Brumbies and national team-mate Tom Wright are getting closer to a deal to stay in Australian rugby as well.
Both defenders have become mainstays for the Wallabies in recent years, with Wright as the reigning Test full-back and Ikitau as one of Australia’s earliest players.
A new contract negotiation agreement, due to be announced shortly, brings teething troubles to who is the boss who calls the shots, as the Wallabies head coach had slowed down contract negotiations with dozens of players.
Rugby Australia is slowly but surely getting its ducks in line, with the looming Lions streak proving crucial to retaining Australia’s leading talent in Super Rugby.
There were fears that Ikitau, whose contract was small compared to others given his rapid rise over the past three years, would go overseas.
Even now, Ikitau still harbors the desire to play abroad, but the roar expects to sign a two-year extension that will keep the 24-year-old with the Brumbies until the end of 2025.
While the Brumbies and Rugby Australia have been keen to sign him on a longer contract, Ikitau is keeping his 2026 options open before looking to attend a home World Cup in 2027.
His rise is one of Australian rugby’s true success stories.
After playing just a handful of minutes for the Brumbies in 2020, Dave Rennie included outside center in his Rugby Championship squad.
Although he wasn’t originally there, it didn’t take long for him to snap up the No. 13 jersey and keep it.
Deceptively strong, capable of offloading, with a strong left foot and excellent in defence, Ikitau was one of Rennie’s first players and seems to have excelled under Eddie Jones.
His forthcoming signing leaves months of uncertainty after he’s been moving toward the deal since last winter.
Wright’s contract negotiations are also understood to have achieved a breakthrough, much to the relief of both parties. The 25-year-old remains an exciting proposition for the Wallabies and his playing ability and quick pace have firmly placed him in the mix for a start at the 2023 World Cup.
On Saturday, News Corp wrote, tensions were beginning to build over the lack of player retention policies, particularly given the constant murmurs about potential NRL recruits and the recent loss of 31-year-old Pete Samu to France.
“Rugby players in general are tired of hearing about it,” said Wright’s players agent David Rawlings News Corp.
“A lot of the guys think if they want NRL players we need to look elsewhere. It has turned into a debacle.
“They just lost Pete Samu to Bordeaux, who has been in the rugby system for a long time.
“They will lose others too if this continues and they only want to talk about NRL players.”
Rawlings added: “We’re sitting here waiting to strike a deal after the World Cup.
“This is the current Wallaby full-back but they talk about all the NRL players and million dollar offers.
“What about taking care of your own? Loyalty works both ways. Look at the sacrifices players have made in rugby. They all took a 50 per cent pay cut during Covid and it didn’t get paid back like the league guys did.
While Rugby Australia’s NRL hit list exudes fascination, most are not concerned that it will impact customers or Australia’s current game standings.
Reports by RA offering $800,000 to Sea Eagles Flyers and former Newington College star Toluta’u Koula are believed to be dead wrong.
Former Schoolboys sensation Cameron Murray is also not a realistic signing in the next two years as the Rabbitohs captain is under contract until 2025.
The Brumbies are hoping Rugby Australia will join the party and offer new deals to Wallabies captains James Slipper, 33, and Nic White, 32.
White, who returned from Exeter in a big deal after the 2019 World Cup, last year expressed his desire to play through to the British and Irish Lions series while Slipper’s career has likely been extended by sharing duties with Scott Sio, who is the left Brumbys last year.
Both men are set to be offered discounted deals but will still feature prominently leading up to the Lions series.
White will play under Jones at the World Cup this year and there is a gap between the top two halfbacks in Australia and the rest. Exciting young talent like Teddy Wilson is only in his first year in Super Rugby.
Slipper, too, could prove invaluable in guiding the Brumbies’ next generation of loose-head props, including Blake Schoupp. Angus Bell, who could challenge Slipper for a spot this year, continues to be plagued by foot injuries.
https://www.theroar.com.au/2023/03/13/exclusive-breakthrough-in-negotiations-as-key-wallabies-duo-set-to-remain-in-australia/ EXCLUSIVE: Negotiations break through as key Wallabies duo to stay in Australia